5 Interval Cycling Workouts That Incinerate Fat

woman cycling outside

Taking a bike ride will burn some serious calories. | iStock.com

The moment you step on the scale after weeks of eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and hitting the gym every day, it becomes a moment of extreme frustration when you’re faced with the same number as last time. If you really have been making smart food choices and getting plenty of rest, your exercise habits could be the reason for this plateau. Instead of going for another round of steady effort on the stationary bike for your next sweat session, kick things into high gear with interval cycling workouts.

Though you can get a great workout performing intervals in the gym, we think you might want to give your outdoor bike a little more love. Being outside is a nice change of pace, but it’s also a great way to ensure a better effort. This might sound too good to be true, but some research suggests outdoor exercise yields better results. One 2014 study compared indoor and outdoor cycling performance among cyclists. Despite executing both time trials at the same perceived rate of exertion, the athletes actually exercised at a higher intensity when outside.

Admittedly, the researchers only worked with 12 athletes for one trial of each method. Still, it’s not too outlandish to imagine the boredom many of us feel on the stationary bike which can lead to lagging results, even when trying to go at maximum speed. So pump up your tires, grab a helmet, and hit the road. These fat-burning cycling workouts will get your weight loss back on track.

1. Endurance-building interval workout

male athlete biking on a road in the country

Gain some endurance by doing interval workouts. | iStock.com

If you’re new to interval training, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to a workout that’s not overly aggressive in the speed department. Long, more relaxed intervals also help build endurance, which is great for anyone interested in a long biking event as well as those just trying to get in better shape. Men’s Fitness shared a workout that’s perfect for these scenarios. The workout was designed with a stationary bike in mind, but it also translates perfectly to biking outside.

You’ll begin warming up with some easy biking. The story recommended 5 to 10 minutes, but don’t be afraid to go even longer to ensure your body is ready to go. For the challenging portion of the workout, you’ll perform two 15-minute intervals separated by 7 minutes of easy riding. For the hard portions, you want the effort to feel challenging without leaving you completely spent after the first segment. Aim for 60% to 70% of your maximum effort. Finish with a 5 to 10 minute cool-down.

2. The breakaway

People on bikes

Shorter and faster intervals can add a lot of intensity to your workout. | iStock.com

Once you’ve gotten the hang of long intervals, it’s time to up the intensity with shorter, faster segments. We like these 2- to 3-minute intervals from Active.com because they’ll continue to build endurance while working to improve your VO2 max. This means you’ll be able to go harder for a longer period of time before reaching exhaustion.

Start with 10 minutes of easy biking for a warm-up. Next, go right into a 2- to 3-minute segment of biking as fast as you can. Recover with 5 minutes of easy pedaling to recover. Perform six total repetitions, then finish with a cool-down.

3. Hill charges

cyclist going at maximum effort

Your legs will be on fire after a hill workout. | iStock.com

Hill intervals are fantastic for sending your heart rate soaring in no time, and they also build power like nothing else. This is even more true when you’re biking at maximum effort. Up for the challenge? Try this seriously tough hill session from Bicycling.

You’ll want to warm up with at least 15 minutes of easy biking, then attack a moderate hill out of the saddle as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Coast back to where you started, then do the same thing sitting in the saddle. Continue to alternate like this until you’ve completed six intervals. Allow yourself to recover with 10 minutes of easy biking, then repeat the cycle once more. Finish by cooling down for at least 10 minutes.

4. 30-minute HIIT workout

Men cycling

A HIIT workout is always a great option. | iStock.com

Being crunched for time is no excuse to skip exercising, so try this 30-minute scorcher from Outside Online. The key to making this workout count is going all-out for the hard segments since they’re short. Other than that, this workout is simple enough. Just warm up for 15 minutes, then get started. You’ll do 10 seconds as fast as possible, immediately followed by 20 seconds at a moderate effort, then 30 seconds easy. Rest for 2 minutes, before going into the next cycle. Cool down for as long as time allows.

5. 35-minute speed workout

Man riding on a bike path

Do intervals so your mind never get’s bored. | iStock.com

For those who find their minds wandering during cycling workouts, going for intervals that constantly change is the best way to stay engaged. We particularly like this workout from Fitness Magazine because it varies the interval length and also alternates between sitting and standing. After a 15-minute warm-up you’ll get started. These intervals are all on the short side, so really pay attention to your effort. Finish up with a brief cool-down.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec